Top Five Horror Gems to Watch this Halloween

Posted: October 4, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

Written by Daniel Simpson

It’s October, which means it’s time to start watching some horror movies. There are of course a ton of classics to watch, from Nosferatu to Halloween, or you could take a look at some modern horror greats like It Follows or The Witch. However there are other great horror films that, for whatever reason, haven’t garnered the reputation of the genre’s more notable classics. These gems are well worth your time however, and today I’ll be drawing attention to five lesser-known horror films that you should watch this Halloween. Keep in mind my goal isn’t to find the most obscure horror films possible. Rather, the movies I’ve highlighted here definitely have a following, they’re just not celebrated to the degree I think they deserve.

5. The Haunting (1963)the-haunting-movie-poster-1963-1020462079

The Haunting was a modest success back in 1963, but it’s only in recent memory that the film has garnered more serious praise. The film revolves around a group of people visiting a supposedly haunted house and conduct a social experiment to see if it really is haunted. This could have been another B-ghost movie in the vein of House on Haunted Hill¸ but instead Robert Wise really elevates this into something special. Using camera lenses that cause distortion deliberately, Wise creates a disorienting move which feels like slipping into another world. Julie Harris gives a great performance as a woman slowly losing her mind and Wise leans on minimal suspense and mystery rather than overt terror. The film has started to receive prominent praise in the last few years, no doubt aided by Martin Scorsese listing it among the scariest films of all-time, but I still feel like this is underseen. Hell, the fact that when you google “the haunting” the shitty remake from 1999 comes up before this is enough of a reason to want the original to get more love.

4. I Walked with a Zombiei_walked_with_zombie_poster_01

In the 1940s, producer Val Lewton made a name for himself producing low-budget horror films for RKO. His most famous effort is almost certainly 1942’s Cat People, directed by Jacques Tourneur. That’s a good movie, but the very next year Lewton and Tourneur made I Walked with a Zombie, a film I consider to be plainly superior to Cat People. While the plot itself is nothing special, what I Walked with a Zombie specializes in is atmosphere. Set on a Caribbean island, much of the film takes place at night and features lots of visuals have hypnotized souls wandering in trance. Though this is a B-picture, Tourneur’s direction and the cinematography elevate this to something which easily can compete with more high-budget fare. Anyone who goes in expecting a zombie movie in the vein of Night of the Living Dead is gonna be disappointed (the zombies here are voodoo slaves not flesh eating corpses), but if you’re looking for some creepy black-and-white thrills, check it out.

3. The Phantom Carriagethe-phantom-carriage-krkarlen-30603

In the early 1920s, German Expressionist films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu broke new ground for the horror genre. Wedged between them however is this haunting ghost story from Sweden. Directed by Victor Sjöström, The Phantom Carriage involves a legend that states the last person to die in a year must take on the mantle of death in the subsequent year. The focus is on the town drunkard who finds himself in that unfortunate position. The very legend the film creates is pretty awesome, but what really makes The Phantom Carriage great are the visuals. For the time, the special effects featured were really ground breaking and even in 2016 they still look pretty damn good. What’s more, the visuals Sjöström creates are very powerful. Death in particular is a very creepy figure. The film also tells a pretty compelling story and the flashback structure was also pretty new in 1921. The film, and Sjöström in general, are known to have had an influence on Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick lifted a sequence right from The Phantom Carriage for The Shining, but the film still feels like it exists on the fringe. That’s a shame because this is a classic in its own right and deserves more attention.

2. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)dr-jekyll-mr-hyde-movie-poster

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a classic horror tale and though there have been many film adaptations, and it’s never really had a definitive take on the vein of the 1931 adaptations of Dracula or Frankenstein. What’s frustrating is that the same year of those Universal classics also gave audiences a really strong take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The highlight is probably Fredric March’s dual performance as Jekyll and Hyde.  His Jekyll is nuanced and interesting while is Hyde is a full on bastard and a ton of fun to watch. March actually won an Oscar for his performance, which today is basically unheard of. The film also has some cool (if dated) make-up effects and the film has a lot of energy. This is a very entertaining horror film which fits in nicely with the aforementioned Universal horror films of the day. Though made by a different studio, the film has a similar mix of literary influence and fun horror thrills. So if you’re the kind of person who lives to watch the Universal Monsters around Halloween, you should probably give this a watch too.

1. Carnival of Soulscarnival_of_souls_poster_01

Herk Harvey was a filmmaker of instructional videos throughout his career, but in 1962 he made a low-budget horror film with a cast of amateurs called Carnival of Souls. The film was dismissed in the day, but overtime has built a cult audience while also inspiring filmmakers like George A. Romero and David Lynch. The film follows a young woman who suffers an accident, miraculously survives, and tries to move on with her life. However she begins to be plagued by strange occurrences, and visions of a mysterious figure following her. The film has a dreamlike atmosphere, created by some very stark cinematography and a chilling score. The film is also full of creepy imagery which gradually get more intense as the film goes, but beneath the horror is a genuinely compelling story. It’s not entirely clear whether the woman is actually mad, if she actually died in the opening scene, or if there really is some supernatural presence at work. The mystery is compelling and the way the tension builds has a Polanski-esque quality. The film is perfect Halloween viewing. The haunting atmosphere is to die for, providing a lot of classic spooky visuals while also creating genuine unease.

  1. le0pard13 says:

    Oh, yeah. Especially the first and last black and white classics I’d second.

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